The line was half-a-block long and growing down Avenue A just before 10 p.m. last night, but Arrow Bar was already filled to capacity. The East Village spot was hosting the launch party for Occupy.com, a new media platform created by local filmmaker David Sauvage with funding from 61-year-old lawyer/Hollywood producer Larry Taubman. After a winter hibernation, Occupy protesters are finally stirring for Spring, and with Zuccotti Park no longer occupied, a bar was as good a place as any for demonstrators to reunite, with many hugging like they hadn't seen each other in months. For those who could get in, the mood was electric, giving the impression that the movement is itching to get going again, perhaps in time for the planned "General Strike" on May 1. Or maybe it was the free food and music.
"The second week I went down there, I saw it was beautiful and made a 30-second commercial, or PSA, that went viral," said Sauvage, 31, who has also done work for Maybelline and the Wall Street Journal. "This guy Larry reached out to me. I thought the movement could use a media channel, so he bought the domain." Sauvage refused to name the price, but OccupyWallStreet.net went for $8,000. "It was more than that," Sauvage said.
Plenty of Occupy Wall Street websites already exist — OccupyWallSt.org, Occupy.net, and the official site of the local General Assembly — but the site's social-media editor Justin Wedes said, "What we've been missing is a really outward-facing, entry-level website aimed to serve the needs of the larger, non-activist community." He set up his Rhodes piano, planning on an impromptu jam later, as East Village standards by Modest Mouse and MGMT played over the bar's P.A.
The new website is not beholden to Occupy's general consensus standards. "This project could not exist within that framework," Sauvage said. Occupy.com has a staff of about fifteen people who work out of a midtown office, and they will not take paid ads, said Seth Adam Cohen, who likened himself to the site's CEO, and sits on the company's board with Sauvage and Taubman, their investor.
Once inside, Sauvage greeted nearly everyone who walked through the door, but complained, "It's all guys!" The ratio evened out as dozens poured in. Over by the complimentary pizza and sandwiches, guests called everyone to attention with the protesters' patented "Mic Check!" and sang "Happy birthday dear comrades" to two people in attendance. A man with an acoustic guitar played a single song, his 7-year-old daughter in tow. "Do you think we can make the world a better place?" he asked her into the microphone. "Yes," she cooed on cue. Between bands, a circus-barker type dressed as Captain America, shield and all, worked up the crowd from the microphone. "This is surreal," said one woman. "It's like my old life mixed with my new life."
At the bar, a girl's face dropped when a bartender delivering two drinks asked for $12. "We're with Occupy Wall Street?" she said unconvincingly. Unmoved, he told her the cocktails were two-for-one, and her face brightened some. "You take credit cards, right?"